What to Do When Drafting a Special Needs Trust

special needs trust in PANo one likes to think about the end of their life, but planning for the end is important.

It’s doubly important when you know you’ll be leaving behind children, whether that means juveniles or adult children or other family members with special needs.

Making arrangements for the care of minor children is its own topic. Today we’re going to focus on children with special needs, and the concept of the special needs trust, also known as a supplemental needs trust.

This trust allows disabled individuals to receive gifts, settlements and other funds while still remaining eligible for certain government programs. Here are some steps to follow when creating one.

Draft a letter of intent

This letter should include all of the information about the special needs family member. It’s designed to let the court and trustees know what you feel is best for your child. The letter should include their medical history, how you’d like them to be cared for, living arrangements and who you want to get guardianship after you’ve gone.

Become a legal guardian

You’ll never stop being a parent, but you’re only considered a legal guardian to your child until they reach adulthood (in Pennsylvania that means age 18). At that point, you need to go to court to apply to become your child’s legal guardian.

Set up the trust

As we said above, this trust lets you set aside funds for the care of a special needs child without cutting them off from federal aid. If a special needs individual has more than $2,000 in assets, they can lose their eligibility for government programs. The money you put into the trust doesn’t count toward that $2,000 cap.

Be sure your will funds the trust

Unless you state otherwise with a will, the law will set aside parts of your estate for each child. That includes special needs children. But your goal is to avoid that scenario: if you leave a special needs child a large chunk of money, it could cut them off from federal aid. Parents should have their wills written – or rewritten – so that the trust is the beneficiary of the special needs child’s share of the estate.

Work with a special needs planner

Special needs planning is complicated, and having a planner by your side can help. They can work with the various professionals – lawyers, caregivers – to help figure out your financial plans and your child’s healthcare needs.

If you’re ready to create a special needs trust, it’s important to work with an attorney with experience in supplemental needs planning. The experts at Newman Elder Law can help properly customize the trust to fit your loved ones needs. We can make sure you’ve protected your child, now and in the future.

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